To order your 2005 Athlon Sports annual and receive $1 off plus free shipping courtesy of SI.com, click here.
As far as the Stanford football program is concerned, change is not bad. Not bad at all. Three straight losing seasons, including a pattern of late-season meltdowns and another humiliating day in Berkeley against the bowl-bound Cal Bears signaled the end of Buddy Teevens' coaching tenure last November.
Walt Harris is the Cardinal's new head coach -- the program's third head coach in four years -- and his reputation as an offensive mind, as well as his track record of postseason appointments at Pittsburgh, made him the choice to get this program back on a winning track.
Harris, who led Pitt to six bowl games in eight seasons, inherits a Cardinal team that lost five games last season by a total of 22 points.
"We are trying to create a mentality here that we expect to win," Harris said. "Getting close, or moral victories, there are none. When you expect to win, you become a good football program."
Harris will go old-school with a Stanford offense that went through a three-year stagnation. In this case, old-school means a West Coast scheme inspired by Bill Walsh, who just happens to occupy an office in the Stanford athletic department as a special assistant to athletic director Ted Leland.
"I have been an admirer of that style for a long time," said Harris. "We want to be able to run the ball with the forward pass."
The Cardinal welcomes back most of its offense, but the big question is who will run Harris' West-Coast attack. Will it be junior Trent Edwards, who began the 2004 season as the starter, or sophomore T.C. Ostrander, who finished the season under center when Edwards got hurt? Both players will not only have to prove themselves, but also do it while buried in a new playbook.
Stanford must improve its ground game. J.R. Lemon, who led the team last year with 440 yards and six touchdowns, is a senior and down to his last chance to turn flashes of dominance into more consistent production. He will be pushed by sophomore Ray Jones and juniors David Marrero and Jason Evans. For the first time in four years, Stanford will regularly utilize a true fullback. Junior Nick Frank, moved over from the defensive line to join this group, was the most impressive during spring ball.
Harris inherits a group of wide receivers with plenty of potential, most notably juniors Evan Moore and Mark Bradford and senior Justin McCullum.
The returning offensive linemen have combined for over 80 career starts, but center Brian Head is the lone senior in the group.
Stanford is sticking with the 3-4 defense it installed last season. The defensive line is experienced but lacks depth. Fifth-year senior Babatunde Oshinowo has started 22 games and is a tough run blocker in the middle of the line. Senior end Julian Jenkins was the line's sack leader, while fifth-year senior Casey Carroll should assume the starting role at other end.
The linebacking corps will be led by fifth-year senior Jon Alston, who missed the spring while he was recovering from knee surgery. Alston had 9.5 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss last season.
The secondary will have a new look after losing three seniors to graduation. Senior corner T.J. Rushing is the most experienced returning player. The competition will be fierce for the other corner spot.
Replacing Oshiomogho Atogwe at free safety will be a big job, one that will likely fall to either Trevor Hooper, the team's starter at strong safety two years ago, or converted quarterback David Lofton.
Punter Jay Ottovegio got his career off to a pretty good start in '04, becoming the first freshman in Stanford history to average more than 40 yards per punt.
The '04 season was a roller-coaster for Michael Sgroi. Finally healthy after kicking in '03 with a broken back, Sgroi converted 16-of-24 attempts and 22-of-23 extra points. He sandwiched a 10-kick success streak in between a tough start and finish.
Stanford might be on the way to reclaiming its historical place as an offensive juggernaut with new head coach Walt Harris, but defense is going to have to put the Cardinal back in bowl position in 2005. Last year's defensive unit earned praise from opponents all over the Pac-10 for their intense, physical, hard-hitting play. But this group was also porous at all the wrong times.
The opener at Navy will be tricky, but the Cardinal will have an opportunity to get off to a quick start. The back half of the schedule, however, is pretty strong. Squeezing a few wins out of his first Stanford team would be a nice accomplishment for Harris.